In July 2022, on the heels of the premiere of his third feature ‘Nope’, Jordan Peele went viral when he replied to a tweet calling him the greatest horror director of all time. “Sir, please put the phone down, please,” wrote the writer/director. “Sorry. I love your enthusiasm, but I will not tolerate any slander about John Carpenter!!!”
This is just one of many examples of Peele professing his love for classic horror cinema. Even before establishing himself as one of the top filmmakers in the business, Peele was always open about his love of the sometimes taboo genre. In recent years, he’s used his newfound status as a darling of the horror community to wax poetic about the many scary sub-genres he enjoys. From 1980s slashers to meticulously crafted contemporary psychological horror, Peele’s appreciation for the art of scare only seems to grow as his filmography grows. And the director is anything but a passive spectator: Peele’s films are littered with references to famous horror mainstays, and fans of him online are having a field day unpacking the various homages.
Peele’s trajectory to become one of the most acclaimed directors currently working in Hollywood isn’t something many would have predicted a decade ago, when he was halfway through Comedy Central’s sketch series “Key & Peele.” Co-created by Peele with his “Mad TV” partner Keegan Michael Key, the show ran for five seasons to critical acclaim, garnering two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Peabody. For many people it would have been a career high point, but for Peele it was just the beginning.
In 2012, Peele founded Monkeypaw Productions, which produced “Key & Peele” and has since grown into a powerful production company, responsible for supporting the work of black directors such as Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Nia DaCosta (“Candyman “). In 2016, Monkeypaw produced “Keanu”: a film that Peele co-wrote and starred in with Key. In 2017, Monkeypaw produced Peele’s directorial debut, 2017’s “Get Out.” A scary and entertaining thriller that critiqued clueless white liberalism through classic horror film conventions, the film was an instant critical success and has only grown in esteem since. The Best Picture nominee won a coveted spot in Sight & Sound’s critics’ poll of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time in 2022.
And Peele hasn’t rested on his laurels; his follow-ups Us and Nope received equal critical acclaim, lauded as some of the best films of their respective years. His fourth feature film, currently untitled, will hit theaters on Christmas Day 2024. No other information about the film has been announced, including its plot or who’s in it, but it’s a safe bet that no matter what, it will it will get people talking.
If you’re a new horror fan looking for a primer or just looking to round out your knowledge of the genre, you could do a lot worse than watching Peele’s favorite films. Read on for a roundup of 17 movies that inspired the ‘Nope’ director.